Today, I went out to ask for some donations for MS Run The US. A gentleman I talked with, and have met a few times prior, asked me the inevitable question that I am sure all runners have been asked before.
“Why do you do it?” He asked me. This question is synonymous to the other versions I have heard, including “What drives you”, “what makes you tick”, and just the simple yet powerful “why?”
Although I have been asked the question before, for whatever reason, this time, it really hit me. I had to stop and really search myself for a good answer, which I couldn’t fully piece together to make perfect sense. This entry, and maybe the following, will be me trying to accumulate the many answers to the ever present question of “why do you run.”
Lets go back. Way back. Okay only like 7 years, but for me, thats about 33% of my life…
Running started for me, in reality, back in 9th grade. I did track in 7th grade, but didn’t really grasp the whole concept of running at the time. 9th grade brought about my first season of high school track, as well as the team that accompanied the sport. I wasn’t much of a distance runner at the time- honestly, I kind of thought all the distance kids were a bit strange. Like, who would want to run for five (ha) miles at a time? I tried out for sprints. I didn’t make it. Coach put me in the distance group, JV team. I took what I could get, and stayed with it. After a few weeks, I realized that these distance kids were actually pretty cool. We got along well, and eventually, all my best friends were on the distance team. After track ended, I got talked into joining the XC team. I said yes.
That single word, “yes,” would shape my life more than I could have ever imagined. I became part of a family of distance athletes. We traveled to Traverse City, Michigan, later that summer for cross country camp, where the majority of the best moments of my high school life happened, each summer for the next three summers. The terrain was always beautiful, with dunes and forests rising above and following the shores of lake michigan. The coaches became more than coaches, but friends and mentors. They taught us discipline, teamwork, and perseverance. These values became part of who I was, and shaped me as a runner and a person.
Why? For friendship.
Why? For adventure.
I continued running after high school, getting straight into marathons, with no other race distances prior besides a 5K. I trained my butt off for my first marathon. I completed it. The next day, I registered for another. My new goal was Boston. It wasn’t until my 4th marathon that I qualified. Something clicked in me when I crossed the finish line. Running had changed somehow, though I wasn’t sure how exactly. I guess the best way to say it is that running became a lesson that I could always learn from, with that lesson being that anything you put your mind to is possible. Running was also becoming synonymous to life, being that it isn’t always easy, but you will get out of it the effort you put into it.The results I saw in my life of new friendships, mental strength, seeing new places, and achieving various personal goals were the rewards I received from running. It became a simple hobby with an abundance of rewards.
Why? Because running is rewarding.
Running has been my escape during some very difficult times in my life. When life gave me ups and downs, I remembered that the trails, metaphorically, give me ups and downs as well, but the ups and downs that I enjoy. I escaped to running because of the rewards that are aforementioned. Running gives me those endorphins that you have probably heard of as “runners high”. It is relaxing. It clears the mind. It is something that you can control when everything else seems out of control. You choose the pace. You choose the distance. You choose the destination. You achieve that pace. You achieve that distance. You conquer that destination.
Why? To be free.
As the running continued, the distances got longer. I did a 34 miler 2 years ago. The new distance brought on a new level of challenge. I wanted to keep testing the limits, but didn’t want to do it for myself. I wanted to run for a reason. For people. For good. I just didn’t know exactly what. I thought I would find a 50K to do for a charitable reason, but dismissed the idea since I had already gone that distance. I wanted to get a little scared with the distance. I had heard of the Ironman triathlon before, and always thought those people were crazy, doing something impossible. I decided to sign up for the impossible. Along the way I was able to raise just shy of a thousand dollars for Wounded Warrior Project and Make A Wish. The Ironman was the longest day of my life, battling 90 degree heat and previously unknown levels of fatigue and heat sickness. I was able to finish the race, and the feeling that resulted was unlike anything else I had ever experienced before. I had done what I loved to change the lives of others. I had passed on the rewards of running (and swimming and biking) on to others, and it changed the way I saw running yet again, but also further shaped me into who I am today. I proved to myself that “impossible” is just a label placed on something by the mind, and that you can always fight through what is deemed impossible.
Why? To test the limits.
Why? For the people who depend on me.
Why? For betterment of the lives of others.
Here I am today. I am training for MS Run The US, where I will run 240 Miles in 9 days across the desert of Nevada and Utah in order to raise funds to conquer multiple sclerosis, and give support to an incredible group of people. This relay is the point of my athletic career where all the “whys” have come together, to give a somewhat clear answer of why I run. I’m sure I’ll never fully grasp why I run, but for now, there are these answers.
“Will you accept this invite to the relay?” the invite asked.
For friendship. For adventure. For the rewards, tangible and intangible. For the freedom. For realizing new limits. For the people who depend on me. For betterment of the lives of others.
Yes. That Simple word. Yes.
See you on the trails-
and merry christmas 🙂